Help! My Apartment Flooded – What Do I Do?

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: November 14, 2023

Has your apartment flooded due to a burst pipe or an overflowing bathtub from upstairs?

At ServiceMaster by Zaba, our experience helping renters with apartment flooding stretches back more than 15 years.

Let’s cover everything you need to know about how to handle a flooded apartment. 

What to Do If Your Apartment Floods

what to do if your apartment floods

1. Shut Down the Electricity and Stay Safe

Always keep in mind that wet floors can compromise your personal safety. Don’t touch electrical equipment or appliances until the electricity to your unit has been safely shut down.

Diana Rodriguez-Zaba recommends, “Be very careful before reentering an apartment after storm flooding. In addition to electrical hazards, you risk exposure to Category 3 black water.”

Power Tip: Keep your footing secure on wet floors by wearing non-skid shoes or boots while you work. 

2. Locate the Source

If the flooding was caused by a plumbing problem inside the apartment, you may be able to fix it yourself. Locate the broken pipe or leak, and try to stop it with pipe tape or a patch and clamp kit.

The problem might be a breakdown in the building’s water supply system. There could be flooding in the unit overhead. If the water is coming through your ceiling, try to contact your upstairs neighbor immediately.

Power Tip: If you go the DIY route, assume your fix is temporary until a plumber can make permanent repairs.

3. Call Your Landlord

Call the landlord right away. If water is dripping through the ceiling, management may already be aware of the emergency. Explain the situation inside your unit, including any DIY work. Arrange for a plumbing professional to take care of final repairs as soon as possible.

Let the landlord know the extent of water damage to the apartment interior, as well as your personal belongings. Building management may be responsible for covering some or all of your losses.

Power Tip: Always keep emergency numbers for building maintenance in your contact list.

4. Call Your Insurance Agent

Most renters insurance policies cover water-damaged belongings after a plumbing breakdown.

However, policy details vary. Call your agent, outline the emergency, and schedule an adjuster’s inspection. If possible, leave damaged items in place so that he or she can see the full extent of your losses.

Power Tip: Documenting the damage with photos can help speed up your insurance claim.

5. Call Water Damage Restoration Professionals

While you can take care of initial cleanup, apartment flooding usually leaves behind extensive damage.

A professional restoration company provides emergency services that cover everything, from water-damaged interiors to soaked furniture and belongings.

Industry-certified technicians address structural issues too, such as wet walls, ruined carpeting and buckled ceilings. The apartment and salvageable contents are quickly restored to their pre-flood condition.

Power Tip: If you don’t have contact information for a restoration company, like ServiceMaster by Zaba, you can request service through their website.

How to DIY Clean a Flooded Apartment

diy clean a flooded apartment

You can clean up after minor flooding inside the apartment, but it needs to be done right away. Otherwise, the water damage spreads and creates additional problems, including the spread of unhealthy mold.

  • Mop Up the Water – Start by mopping up standing water. You might need to rent a wet vac to remove water from carpets. Heavily soaked carpet and padding usually need to be pulled up and thrown away.
  • Start Drying Interiors – Set up fans so that they create strong crosscurrents of air throughout the apartment, and let them run 24/7. If the weather allows, open all the windows. Speed up the structural drying process with a heavy-duty dehumidifier from the rental center.
  • Clean and Disinfect Surfaces – Any type of flooding leaves behind surface contamination, so thoroughly scrub walls, floors and ceilings with a general cleaning product. Follow up by going over everything a second time with a disinfecting cleaner.

When to Call in Restoration Professionals

flooded apartment restoration

In most cases, a flooded apartment creates serious cleanup problems. DIY cleaning can’t address all the issues, and doing it yourself quickly becomes heavy, time-consuming work.

Before you take on the job, think about the advantages of bringing in restoration pros, like ServiceMaster by Zaba.

  • Emergency water damage services are available 24/7.
  • Specialized equipment greatly reduces cleanup time.
  • Certified technicians take care of structural restoration.
  • Unsalvageable materials and contents are hauled off.
  • Salvageable belongings can be cleaned and restored.
  • Mold growth is eliminated with industry-certified remediation.
  • You have help filing your water damage insurance claim.

Important Note: Interiors contaminated by Category 3 floodwater or sewage are especially hazardous. Never try to tackle this type of cleanup by yourself. Always call in water damage professionals.

How to Prevent Flooding in Your Apartment

You can’t stop severe weather that threatens to flood the apartment. You can take steps that reduce the chances of flooding from plumbing breakdowns.

  • Routinely check appliance connections and hoses for signs of leaks.
  • Head off clogs and backed-up lines by regularly cleaning kitchen and bathroom drains.
  • Think about installing smart leak detectors near appliances and linking them to your phone.
  • If you notice the sound of water dripping behind a wall, call building maintenance immediately.
  • Make sure you know how to shut down the water supply to your apartment.

Dealing With Apartment Water Damage in Chicago, IL or Suburbs? We Can Help!

We know firsthand how hard it is to deal with a flooded apartment. You don’t have to take care of it by yourself. Our teams provide a full range of services, from repairing water-damaged ceilings to completely restoring interiors.

With locations in Chicago, Northshore and Lake County, our water damage restoration pros are ready to help.

ServiceMaster by Zaba is standing by: 773-647-1985.

Helpful Resources for Renters

Renters’ Rights –

Tenants’ Rights – HUD

Your Flood Risk – FEMA

If my apartment floods, what are my rights as a tenant?

In general, the landlord is responsible for maintaining the units and keeping the building’s plumbing system in good condition. However, laws covering tenant rights vary from state to state. Check your lease for detailed information.

What should I do if the upstairs neighbor floods my apartment?

Try to contact the upstairs unit right away. Call the landlord and building maintenance. Make it clear that your apartment is flooding and that you need help immediately. 

What causes apartments to flood?

The most common causes of apartment flooding include appliance problems, plumbing breakdowns, frozen burst pipes, clogged drains and storm flooding.

How long does it take to restore a flooded apartment? 

The time it takes to restore a flooded apartment depends on several factors, such as the source of the flooding and extent of damages. It can take a few days to several weeks to restore a unit to its pre-flood condition.

What are the signs that my apartment is at risk of flooding?

Signs of potential flooding in an apartment include: water stains on walls and ceilings; pipes that continue to leak after repairs; and musty odor inside walls that may indicate unseen plumbing problems.